The writer is evidently very knowledgeable. It's a great indepth lesson but with too many unexplained and uninterpreted French quotes/references and terms that left huge gaps in my understanding. The aristocratic French accent pronounciations heightened the frustration. It was like screaming English to make a foreigner understand. Further, brief but unexplained references to historical events left me continuously stopping to google for information as to what the event was and why the writer had proclaimed it as having impact on the story. Probably a better read for a French speaking historian than just an interested novice.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
While it describes only the events of the first month of WWI, it does so in such great detail and with such clarity and vividness that it is quite understandable why The Guns of August received the Pulitzer Prize and is considered a classic in the military history of WWI. It provides a history of the plans, strategies, world events, and international sentiments prior to and during the war. As Stephen Pinker so brilliantly summarizes, “The carnage was stupefying; 8.5M deaths in combat and perhaps 15M deaths overall in just 4yrs. Romantic militarism by itself cannot explain the orgy of slaughter... the war was a perfect storm of destructive currents brought suddenly together by the iron dice of Mars. An ideological background of militarism and nationalism a sudden contest of honor that threatened the credibility of each of the great powers; a Hobbesian trap that frightened leaders into attacking before they were attached first and overconfidence that deluded each of them into thinking that victory would come swiftly... military machines that could deliver massive quantities of men to a front that could mow them down as quickly as they arrived... a game of attrition that locked the two sides into seeking exponentially greater costs into a ruinous situation; all set off by a Serbian nationalist who had a lucky day.” These are all brilliantly dissected, elucidated and offered by Barbara Tuchman for our close examination. The traps, miscalculations and mistakes are all there. More examples of the follies of war.
I read TGoA because I was interested in knowing more about WWI. The book did not disappoint because in fact I was more interested in the beginning of the war, its participants and cause(s). TGoA is not an exhaustive military analysis of the entire war; again, it really only considers the first month in detail. For those such as I, it is sufficient. For those interested in the four years following, it’s a great introduction, one probably without equal.
I couldn't listen to this when I first downloaded it. Did not appreciate the narration.
But after a couple of years I gave it another try and found it gripping. I became accustomed
to the narration. The timing and pace of it was perfect. I now understand
why the Guns of August is considered a classic.
Overall: a great way to learn some basics about WWI from a certain narrow perspective. I'm generally interested in broader social aspects of history but this is great for what it is.
Content: This is about the dozen or so generals and heads of state who got the world into WWI and all the messes that followed. Given that, I felt that there was surprisingly little about the Austrian Kaiser and what led to the decision to invade Serbia after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. This was the key decision that started the cascade but we don't really get to know Franz Josef and his entourage or hear anything about the world trying to get him to take back his move. I don't usually think of history this way, but if that is what the book is about then it seems like this would be the key plot point but it's more of a footnote. ???
One reviewer said it was anti-German. I'm not sure how. All the leaders come off as lunatics willing to kill hundreds of thousands of soldiers (including their own) for nothing. Under the Kaiser's orders, the German army did invade neutral Belgium and commit atrocities there against civilians.
Narrator: WIth regards to the previous reviews I have to agree that doing foreign voices in English with a funny accent is silly, but a common Hollywood device. The pronunciation of foreign names was was excellent compared with most Audible narrators. Overall, I thought she did a very good job.
She was way too shrill. I have other books she's read that weren't awful, but she was intolerable here.
I recommend the version read by John Lee.
war itself. but insofar as how the mother scratching thing got started in the first place....this is THE book
Barbara Tuchman’s favorite military philosopher, here at least, is Clausewitz. Through that Germanic perspective, she wants us to see the battles of the early months of World War I, the ones that led to the awful trench-war stalemate of All’s Quiet on the Western Front and the despairing backdrop of Hemingway’s work, as a game of chess. To that end, she resurrects all sorts of individuals responsible for the strategies and counter-strategies. We open with a roster of the kings of Europe, and throughout we get skillful, capsule biographies of one commander after another, someone whose quirk of personality contributed to the failure or success of his country’s troops. She imagines, in other words, the minds purportedly responsible for driving the outcome of the war.
Leo Tolstoy’s favorite commander, at least in War and Peace, is Kutuzov, the aging general who blunts Napoleon’s march into Russia. As Tolstoy paints him, Kutuzov understands that planning can go only so far in battle. After that, you have to trust to a kind of spirit of the moment; you have to understand that war is not chess but rather a conflict of passions and preparations. Some select few may set events in motion, but war is ultimately an experience larger than any particular minds.
Tuchman’s history is a history of would-be chess master generals, of men who live up to their training and conceptualization or men who fall short of theirs. It’s a striking history at times – it answers why one battle went one way and another the opposite – but it’s rarely compelling. She never looks to larger matters of warfare, to the enduring question of what makes an ordinary man carry a rifle into conflict with other men. She takes the “rules of war” as a given, and shows us how they play out.
In the end, this becomes a succession of more of the same. As skillfully as she can turn a phrase, as concisely as she can boil down a clever sketch of someone or other, each battle begins to echo the last. One side wins on a front to put the other on its heels. The Germans move forward only to get bogged down.
As I read this, I can’t help missing the grander vision of, say Michael Shaara in The Killer Angels, a writer who gets something of the Kutuzov understanding of war, or the larger human experience and tragedy of real conflict. In that much more gripping history, we see the stakes of the battle, and we’re called on to understand both the human character of each commander’s decisions as well as the human toll each loss entails. Shaara’s is a story told at a human eye-level that, piling scene upon scene, becomes epic.
Tuchman’s, disappointingly, is an effort to show the technical aspects of an epic struggle that, excellent prose aside, never touches the deeper tragedy of its horrific topic.